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Continued: Standardized tests? South High leads way for opting out

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 25, 2014 - 9:37 PM

A class discussion that harvests examples is one way that Ockman determines how deeply her students reflect on what they’ve read. She also uses journals in which students note parts of the text that speak to them and why.

Panning-Miller cites the tendency of standardized testing to reduce complex questions to a single right answer, making it harder for students to synthesize conflicting evidence in a world of uncertainty.

The open teachers say other teachers are interested in the opt-out movement and that repercussions have been slight. “I was urged to be more of a team player,” Panning-Miller said, recounting a conversation with a South administrator. Across Minneapolis, 240 students have opted out of the MAP test, while 408 aren’t taking this spring’s MCAs.

Testing opponents argue that the focus on testing has narrowed school curriculum to tested subjects, that it has focused districts on scripted instruction that undercuts more authentic learning that students absorb more deeply, and that the sheer volume of tests has cut into learning time.

But it’s a surprise to many that parents have the right to opt their children out, which they can do without repercussion. MCA and MAP are not a graduation requirement.

That includes school administrators, according to Shannon Essler-Petty, an assistant professor of education at College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, who has spoken to superintendents on the issue. She helps train teachers, and said they know without standardized tests what skills individual students have mastered.

“They know those kiddos better than anyone else,” she said.


Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Twitter: @brandtstrib

  • related content

  • Josiah Ferguson participated in a book discussion at South High in Minneapolis, where hundreds of students have opted out of testing.

  • English teacher Michelle Ockman led a book discussion. Discussions that harvests examples is one way that Ockman determines how deeply her students reflect on what they’ve read.

  • Standardized tests

    In favor: Results show progress on achievement gap, add data for evaluating programs, offer immediate feedback.

    Against: School curricula focus on tested subjects, instruction becomes scripted, learning time is undercut.

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